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Business Watch- Thursday April 5, 2012

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Texas Drought
The worst one year drought in state history has hit the Texas agriculture industry with $7 billion in losses. The losses are also why state Agriculture and Environmental Quality commissioners are scratching their heads over a federal plan to divert Rio Grande River water to Mexico. Texas says the water giveaway would set a dangerous precedent while state reservoirs are half-filled and cattle herds are the smallest since the 50s.

Houston’s Stage Stores
Houston’s Stage Stores are reporting Thursday, that revenue at stores open at least a year climbed 4.7 percent last month, thanks to cosmetics, footwear and accessories sales. Stage Stores includes department stores like Beall’s and Palais Royale. Stage’s CEO Andy Hall resigned last month and Interim chief Michael Glazer says April’s revenue will be hurt by the earlier Easter.

Creator of The Laffer Curve
The creator of The Laffer Curve says raising taxes on the wealthy will backfire and using trade as a political weapon is not a good strategy. Dr. Arthur Laffer addressed the Frost Bank Houston Speaker Series Wednesday and used Cuba and Korea as examples of how refusing to engage economically with countries is not a good long-range plan.

Gas Prices
Gasoline costs four dollars a gallon for most of us and that fact has not escaped the notice of automakers. Many are rolling out new, fuel-efficient models at the New York Auto Show. One of the leaders in producing and promoting electric cars is Nissan, with their all-electric “Leaf.”CEO Carlos Ghosn says high gas prices are the best marketing for the technology: “Gasoline is at four dollars a gallon, but is going to keep moving up,” he states. Ghosn predicts electric cars will make up 10 percent of the market by the year 2020.

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama has signed legislation barring Washington insiders from profiting from nonpublic information learned on the job. In true government fashion, it’s called The STOCK Act, which stands for Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge. Mr. Obama says that the STOCK Act will ensure everyone “plays by the same rules:”We were sent here to serve the American people, and look out for their interests…not to look out for our own interests,” the President said as he signed the law. Some members of Congress say the bill falls short without a requirement for disclosures from those who gather information from Congress and sell it, primarily to investors. President Obama is also scheduled to sign the “Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act” Thursday including key points proposed last year to help small businesses and startups grow and create jobs. DirecTV and Tribune Broadcasting say they have a deal in a rights-battle that threatened some programing on Houston’s Channel 39-TV. What has ended is an impasse that blacked out some channels for DirectTV subscribers in 19 U.S. markets, losing programming from American Idol to Major League Baseball. The new agreement allows DirecTV to carry all of Tribune Broadcasting’s local stations and WGN America for the next five years.

The Clear Capital Home Data Index
The Clear Capital Home Data Index shows home prices nationally held fast over the most recent quarter. Alex Villacorta, Director of Research and analytics, notes that home prices are effectively flat on a quarter over quarter basis:”technically they’re down 0.2 percent from where they were in November of last year, and down about 1.4 percent from a year ago,” he says. Villacorta predicts by the end of the year, national home prices should rise 1-point-2 percentage points.

Wall Street
Wall Street is still reeling from Tuesday’s interpretation of Federal Meeting minutes that no more fiscal stimulus is coming anytime soon, ignoring news of an improving economy:
The Dow dropped 124 points to nearly 1%, to 13,074.
The S&P 500 fell a full 1% to 1,398.
The Nasdaq lost 1.5% to 3,068.
Crude oil plunged 2.4% to $101.47 a barrel.
Gold lost 3.5% to end at $1,614.10 an ounce.
Silver up 26 cents to $31.30 per ounce
Copper down a penny to $3.78 per pound.

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